What’s happened to RTE’s “Other Voices”?

St. James church in Din­gle, co. Kerry.

What’s going on with the once great Oth­er Voic­es? The first episode in this the 16th sea­son began exact­ly as you would have expect­ed, with BBC Radio 1 dj Annie Mac deliv­er­ing an intro promis­ing music from the likes of Per­fume Genius (reviewed ear­li­er here) and Djan­go Djan­go, with reports and footage from fes­ti­vals in Berlin, Belfast and at the Elec­tric Picnic.

The usu­al heady mix then of left of field, broad­ly indie fare mixed with the best in Irish music, and all set against the pic­ture post­card-per­fect back­drop of a church in Din­gle. But that intro, it tran­spired, was for the series, not for the episode at hand which was con­sid­er­ably less auspicious.

Ibeyi, from Paris via Cuba.

First up were Pic­ture This, who hail from Athy. If you’ve ever passed through Athy, you’ll know that at its cen­tre sits Shaws, the drap­ers where every local moth­er brings her son and daugh­ter to get fit­ted out for their first holy com­mu­nion, con­for­ma­tion and debs. And which famous­ly ran an ad declar­ing, glo­ri­ous­ly, “Shaws, almost nation­wide!” Which is all the more delight­ful in its refusal of the obvi­ous­ly cor­rect “near­ly nationwide”.

Had it been penned by a beard in Williams­burg it would quite right­ly have been hailed as a bril­liant­ly bit­ing decon­struc­tion of what adver­tis­ing copy is sup­posed to do. Let’s just assume that’s exact­ly what was intend­ed by who­ev­er came up with it here. Well, Pic­ture This sound exact­ly what you’d expect a band from Athy to sound like.

Wyvern Lin­go.

Next up were a cou­ple of num­bers from Sigrid, an oh so earnest Swedish would-be teen queen whose drea­ry synth pop is obvi­ous­ly going down a storm with the pre-tweens, and who was clear­ly as sur­prised to find her­self on stage singing as we were to see here per­form­ing on it. No doubt she’ll have a host of hilar­i­ous sto­ries to tell her class mates once she goes back to col­lege to fin­ish her degree in archi­tec­ture or inte­ri­or design, before set­tling down to bring up her kids.

After the break we had a cou­ple of songs from Wyvern Lin­go, a gen­uine­ly com­pelling trio from Bray who set their mel­liflu­ous melodies to glitchy indi­etron­i­ca, very much in the mode of Syl­van Esso – who them­selves are made up of one part of Moun­tain Man, who Wyvern Lin­go were com­pared to when they start­ed out.

Katie Kim per­forms at the RTE Choice Music Prize 2016, by Kier­an Frost

After that, we were giv­en a haunt­ing per­for­mance from singer song­writer Maria Kel­ly, and it looked as if the pro­gramme was back on track. But imme­di­ate­ly after that it was up to Belfast, and who did they find to record there? Only Pic­ture This. And, sure enough, after Belfast it was back to Din­gle we were treat­ed to no few­er than four fur­ther tracks from Athy’s finest, and anoth­er three from Sigrid, the very much not Sti­na Nordenstam.

So three quar­ters of the pro­gramme was devot­ed to a pair of young-fogey, pub-rock­ers from the mid­lands, and the least threat­en­ing Swedish chanteuse you’ll ever hear.

There’s noth­ing wrong with devot­ing three quar­ters of your pro­gramme to just two acts, so long as the acts in ques­tion mer­it that atten­tion. They could have focused on, say, Katie Kim (reviewed here), Lisa Han­ni­gan, Brigid Mae Pow­er or Rejji Snow from these shores, or, from fur­ther afield, on the likes of Cig­a­rettes After Sex, Ibeyi (reviewed here) or Car Seat Head­rest (reviewed here). Or, most obvi­ous­ly of all, they could have turned the show on its head, and giv­en three quar­ters of it to Wyvern Lin­go and Maria Kel­ly, and just the 10 min­utes to Pic­ture This and Sigrid, in total.

Car Seat Head­rest’s bril­liant Teens of Denial.

There’s noth­ing wrong with Pic­ture This, but their debut album went to num­ber 1 here (and there’s a prize of a Curly Wurly and a sher­bet dip for any­one who can cor­rect­ly guess what they called it), and there are any num­ber of out­lets where they play that sort MOR music wall to wall, night and day. The whole point about Oth­er Voic­es is that the music it gives voice to is sup­posed to be pre­cise­ly that, other.

Here’s the video for Wyvern Lingo’s Out of My Hands and the video for I Love You, Sadie also from Wyvern Lingo.

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3 albums from around the world.



Ibeyi is the debut album from the French Cuban twin sis­ters of the same name. Their father was the Cuban drum­mer Anga Diaz, who played with Irakere and then the Bue­na Vista Social Club, while their moth­er is the French Venezue­lan singer Maya Dagnino.

Hav­ing spent their lives shut­tling between their home in Paris and Cuba the music they pro­duce is a heady mix of vin­tage Cuban influ­ences and a con­tem­po­rary north Euro­pean indie vibe. And is dom­i­nat­ed by an Afro-Cuban beat that man­ages to be at once extra­or­di­nar­i­ly com­plex and tech­ni­cal and yet irre­sistibly alluring.

Yet there’s a sub­dued feel to the album, born of the fact that a num­ber of the songs address their father, who died when the pair were 13 – they are in their very ear­ly 20s now – and their old­er sis­ter who died soon after.

The Buena Vista Social Club.

The Bue­na Vista Social Club.

Not that it is in any way a depress­ing album, mere­ly some­what under­stat­ed. There’s a spir­i­tu­al force behind the songs, albeit a sub­tle one, and one that’s both pre-mod­ern and non Euro­pean – I’m striv­ing valiant­ly here to avoid the word “prim­i­tive”.

The result is indi­etron­i­ca fused with hiphop of the RnB vari­ety, under­scored by African rhythms and Cuban swing. You can see the video for the sin­gle Riv­er here.

Rhi­an­non Gid­dens won a Gram­my as part of the roots Amer­i­cana group Car­oli­na Choco­late Drops, but she only real­ly came to promi­nence after her show steel­ing per­for­mance in the film Anoth­er Day Anoth­er Time.

The Coen broth­ers had hoped to repeat the suc­cess of O Broth­er Where Art Thou with this filmed con­cert of the OST album from Inside Llewyn Davis. The for­get-the-film-enjoy-the-sound­track ploy failed to catch fire this time around, and the result­ing fol­low up film was large­ly ignored. Which was a shame, as Anoth­er Day Anoth­er Time was a lot bet­ter than it might have been giv­en the input of the one of the Mum­fords. What it did do was to intro­duce the world to Rhi­an­non Gid­dens, whose per­for­mance of a Scot’s Gael­ic reel is jaw-drop­ping – you can see her per­form it in Glas­gow here.

Rhiannon Giddens Tomorrow Is

Rhi­an­non Gid­dens Tomor­row Is My Turn.

Tomor­row Is My Turn is her debut album out on None­such and is pro­duced inevitably by T‑Bone Bur­nett. It moves effort­less­ly from cov­ers of The Dublin­ers, Pat­sy Cline and Dol­ly Par­ton to Odet­ta and Nina Simone, going from protest, jazz and gospel to coun­try and pop. The result is a time­less, mod­ern Amer­i­can songbook.

Once in a blue moon, the plan­ets align and the uni­verse con­spires to pro­duce an album that has clear­ly been record­ed just for you. I came across Imam Bail­di, named after the stuffed aubergine dish from the east­ern Mediter­ranean, thanks as ever to the uber reli­able All Songs Con­sid­ered pod­cast from NPR (reviewed ear­li­er here).

The Imam Baildi Cookbook.

The Imam Bail­di Cook­book.

The Falireas broth­ers grew up in Greece lis­ten­ing to the Rebetiko 78s that their father sold in his record shop. Rebetiko is a mix­ture of late 19th cen­tu­ry Ottoman Greek, Turk­ish and Balkan influ­ences that mar­ries the sweep­ing, plan­gent melodies of the coun­try with the urban con­cerns of the ports and cities, invari­ably cen­tred around the sounds of the bouzou­ki. It re-sur­faced in the café music of Greece and Turkey in the 40s 50s and 60s.

All of which the band fuse with thump­ing 21st cen­tu­ry RnB, funk, and hiphop. Intox­i­cat­ing. I’ve start­ed off with the sec­ond of their three albums, the Imam Bail­di Cook­book, and am doing my very best to lim­it myself to but two or three plays a day. Some hope. You can hear Bus­ca Rit­mo from the Cook­book here. And a track from the 2014 album Imam Bail­di III here.

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